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Seminoles put foot down

Angered by the Cavaliers' pregame dance on the team logo, Florida State's defense sets the tone with an early turnover and keeps up relentless pressure in a 37-3 victory.

[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Marvin Minnis craddles the ball as he falls in the end zone for a 30-yard scoring catch.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Not that long ago, the Florida State Seminoles would punctuate their pre-game warmups by gathering on the midfield emblem, home or away, and brazenly jumping up and down.

They don't do that anymore.

They've seen that incite their opponent.

Apparently that lesson was lost on the Virginia Cavaliers, who did their own pregame jig Saturday afternoon on the Seminole head; junior offensive tackle Jermese Jones even spat on it.

Not a good move.

The Seminoles, who were in their locker room and were told about it, did their stomping in a dominating 37-3 win against their Atlantic Coast Conference rivals before 79,121 at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It was cowardly," senior linebacker Tommy Polley said of the Cavaliers waiting until the Seminoles had left the field.

"We take that personally," FSU senior cornerback Tay Cody added. "That's like a slap in our face. They came in here and thought they were going to intimidate us."

Gee, as if the No. 6-ranked Seminoles (7-1, 5-0) needed added motivation. They realized all too well that a loss to Virginia could cost them the ACC title and the automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series, not to mention end hopes of reaching the national championship game.

"After losing to Miami, you don't need any extra incentive to go out and play your best game every week from here on out," senior linebacker Brian Allen said. "But most definitely, it echoed in the back of the defense's mind that hopefully we win the coin toss, could defer and the defense could be on the field first so we can get a little payback."

They did.

Polley, a Butkus Award semifinalist, recovered an errant snap on the third play and returned it 9 yards to the 1 to set up a 1-yard run by junior fullback William McCray for a 7-0 lead.

The play also set a defensive tone. The Cavaliers mustered a season-low 33 yards rushing, 151.5 fewer than their average. Junior tailback Antwoine Womack, who entered second in the league in rushing (107.7 yards), gained 63 on 24 carries.

"I don't remember anybody ever stopping us cold like that, ever," Virginia coach George Welsh said.

"Our focus was to try to stop the run," said FSU senior safety Derrick Gibson, who recovered two fumbles, one at the goal line midway through the fourth quarter. "We thought they would come out and try to run it down our throats."

What choice did they have?

The Cavaliers (4-3, 3-2) long have lived with the run, but that figured to carry more of a burden with senior quarterback Dan Ellis out with a strained right hamstring. The Cavs were forced to start redshirt freshman Bryson Spinner, who had completed none of his three passes and had one interception but could run the option.

"They had it tough going into a place without your quarterback," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, adding he thought Ellis would play after watching him warm up. "But they had to beat us with two freshmen (Matt Schaub, another lightly used redshirt, served as backup) and that's hard to do. I told George that next year I've got to come up there with a new quarterback and I ain't going."

But for a change, especially of late, his old quarterback didn't look like a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Senior Chris Weinke, who had thrown for 1,032 yards in the past two games, completed 8 of 15 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown in the half.

"We didn't play with any intensity in the first half," he said. "We didn't execute the way we wanted to."

Oft-maligned redshirt sophomore placekicker Chance Gwaltney had to bail out the offense, hitting a 22-yard field goal, then, after a bad snap on a punt gave FSU the ball at the 17, a 36-yarder for a 13-0 lead.

Weinke found a diving Marvin Minnis on a post for a 30-yard score and a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. Gibson then recovered a fumble and McCray capped a four-play, 39-yard drive with his second 1-yard touchdown run for a 27-0 halftime lead.

After Virginia's David Greene made a 37-yard field goal early in the third, the Seminoles closed out the scoring with a third Gwaltney field goal and a 58-yard touchdown from Weinke to Minnis. Weinke finished with 274 yards.

"The defense played about as well as they could," Bowden said. "The offense was just kind of hot-cold, hot-cold. I hate to say that because a lot of that was Virginia made us hot-cold."

And hot as a result of their pre-game stunt?

"I don't know how big a role that played," Bowden said, "but, yes, we did mention it; searching for something extra."

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